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Stingray City Excursion Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Stingray City Excursion Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Stingray City off the coast of Grand Cayman is famous for its friendly stingrays that congregate around a sandbar looking for snacks. And yes—you can visit on a cruise line shore excursion!

On the last port day of our Panama Canal cruise on Caribbean Princess, I spent the day with my family on an amazing shore excursion on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. We were able to visit Stingray City and feed stingrays in the wild, and then enjoy some snorkeling time at a coral reef.

Finally, we visited one of the best beach clubs on Grand Cayman Island to have lunch and relax for a few hours before returning to the ship.

Here’s how you can do the same when you visit Grand Cayman on a cruise.

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How we chose our Grand Cayman shore excursion

We chose the Stingray Encounter, Reef, Snorkel, Beach & Lunch shore excursion that Princess Cruises offered, for $119.95 per person. The entire tour was scheduled to last about six hours.

Update: Princess has since changed their Grand Cayman shore excursion menu. You can see their updated Grand Cayman excursions here, including visits to Stingray City.

I definitely wanted some beach relaxation time, I love to snorkel, and I had always wanted to get up close with stingrays, so this excursion was a no-brainer for me.

Stingray City is actually one of the most popular tourist activities on Grand Cayman, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting each year. A tour that included all of these things sounded perfect for the three of us.

You may also like: Baby Sloths Made Me Take a Panama Canal Cruise

We get to George Town, Grand Cayman

Arriving at the port of George Town at 7 AM, we were thrilled that the weather looked perfect: blue skies accentuated by a few puffy white clouds and no rain in sight.

After a quick stop for breakfast at the buffet, we headed to the theater to meet our excursion group of about 20 people. George Town is a tender port, so it took a little longer than usual to make it to shore.

We met our driver who would bring us by mini-bus to the Cayman Island Yacht Club where our chartered boat was waiting for us.

Making our way through traffic on the crowded main street, we noticed that it’s very commercial and featured more familiar US chain restaurants than I would have expected. A couple in our group kept shouting, “Look! Burger King! Look! Subway!” We found that amusing.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Tender Ports on a Cruise

We meet our boat captain

Twenty-five minutes later we were at the dock, where we met Captain Chris and his first mate. Our ship for the day was about a 40-footer with bench seating around the perimeter. You could also sit on the bow of the boat, which was fairly flat with a short railing around it.

After a brief safety talk, we were on our way! We first passed through a canal lined with some beautiful (and very large!) waterfront homes.

The canal was a no-wake zone, so it took a while to get out to the open ocean at our leisurely pace.

Each of us chose which of these waterfront homes we would buy after winning the lottery!

At Stingray City

When we arrived at Stingray City, which is a sandbar in the North Sound, there were only a couple of other boats already there. We were able to hop off the back of the boat and stand up in the waist-high water. The stingrays came right up to us, looking for a snack.

If you’re a non-swimmer, you absolutely could participate in this part of the tour. No swimming is necessary to visit the stingrays, even though Stingray City is over a mile from shore.

Our guides had told us the rules about interacting with the stingrays to ensure that we guests and the animals would stay safe and avoid injuries. The boat’s first mate then gave us bits of squid (which you hold in your closed fist) to feed the stingrays. The rays sucked the squid right out of our fists like little vacuums!

Are stingrays dangerous? We all know that beloved Aussie naturalist Steve Irwin tragically died from a Bull Stingray attack. However, Southern Stingrays are generally docile, and will just swim away if they feel threatened. Out of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit each year, there have only been a few reports of people being stung at Stingray City. No fatalities have been attributed to a stingray attack at this location.

Our guides picked the stingrays up so we could interact with them. I didn’t try this, but several people in our group received kisses and “back massages” from the rays! I did pet a few of the stingrays, though.

We had plenty of time at this location, about 45 minutes, and no one made us feel rushed. After about twenty minutes on the sandbar, a few more boats pulled up and anchored near us, so the area did start to feel a little crowded.

Stingray sandbar-1001
Photo credit: Grahampurse [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Is it ethical to visit Stingray City?

Many people today are choosing to not support animal-centered tourism. The stingrays in Grand Cayman aren’t held in captivity, but they’ve come to rely on receiving food from human visitors to their habitat.

A 2008 study led by researchers from Simon Fraser University in Canada revealed that the stingrays at Stingray City have more injuries and weaker immune systems than animals without high levels of human interaction.

On the other hand, providing food for this particular population of stingrays allows them to focus on rest and reproduction. The large number of guide-led tourists may also provide them some protection from both human and animal predators.

Stingray tours provide many jobs to the local population, adding millions of dollars of revenue to the island each year. Some estimates say that each stingray brings in $500,000 per year, and there are 60 to 70 rays that live on and around the sandbar.

“If the tourists aren’t there then these animals could just be hunted or eaten. The best way is to educate the operators and the customers.”

-Vincent Janik of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University, in The Guardian

The decision is up to you whether it’s ethical to visit Stingray City in Grand Cayman.

Personally, I wish that tours were limited to reduce the number of humans and boats on the sandbar at any given time. Injuries to the rays from boats are not uncommon.

Snorkeling at the coral reef

When we got to the reef, located just a few minutes away from Stingray City, we were so excited to snorkel! We had just purchased a waterproof camera for my daughter, and I was going to use it to take tons of pictures of all the gorgeous fish.

The tour company provided snorkel vests and basic snorkel gear, but you may prefer to bring your own set. We love the full-face snorkel masks. It’s a much better experience than struggling with a traditional set!

Read more: Why You Need a Full Face Snorkel Mask for Your Next Cruise

I went under with the camera and took a few shots. Resurfacing, I tried to check the display to see how the first pictures turned out. The screen was black.

Still unfamiliar with the camera model, I pressed this button and that button, but nothing. Then I noticed. There was water INSIDE the camera. The seal was defective!

Sadly, we ended up losing all the pictures from Stingray City, and we couldn’t take any underwater photos at the reef.

So, I’m including a short YouTube video from the tour company (it’s under two minutes) that shows both the stingray experience and the fish at the reef. Captain Chris is in the video near the beginning (he’s the smiling guy in the water holding a stingray!)

Even though we had a major camera malfunction, we enjoyed our time at the reef. We were able to stay for about 45 minutes at this location as well.

I spotted blue tangs, butterfly fish, yellowtail snapper, and several other species of tropical fish swimming around the beautiful coral garden.

At the beach! Rum Point Club

After our less-than-stellar experience at a beach club in Jamaica a few days before, we didn’t have high expectations for this one. We tied up to the long, L-shaped dock jutting out from the beach, and spotted what looked like a little village set up on shore.

We had a couple of hours to relax at the Rum Point Club before we needed to get back on the boat to return to the yacht club. Captain Chris told us he would blow his horn as a 15-minute warning, and then again as we needed to be back on board.

Rum Point Club in Grand Cayman

Walking closer to the beach, we noticed a covered dining area with picnic tables under a canopy. Palm trees shaded parts of the beach, while other areas had full sun. Loungers and hammocks were set up in both areas.

There was a restaurant, a bar, and a gift shop, each in its own well-maintained and brightly-colored building.

Our boat’s crew thankfully took our lunch orders earlier in the day, so our food arrived just minutes after we did. We were famished after being out on the water and in the sun for a few hours!

I had requested the catch of the day, Mr. SBC asked for the jerk chicken, and my daughter ordered the chicken tenders. It was basic beach food, but the portions were large which we appreciated.

The next order of business was to get a cocktail and relax on the beach. The Wreck Bar offered a small list of tropical-themed drinks, featuring their famous Mudslide, for $9.50-$10.

Legend has it that the Wreck Bar actually invented the Mudslide in the 1950s! The story goes that a bartender named Old Judd invented the frozen version for the locals, but tourists loved it and spread the recipe around the world. Rum Point doesn’t claim to have invented it, except to say that sometime in the 1970s, a patron asked for a White Russian. Not having any cream, the bartender substituted Bailey’s Irish Cream and their version of the drink was born.

Beer and wine are also available at the bar, including the locally-made Caybrew Draft. Non-alcoholic selections include sodas, milkshakes, and virgin daiquiris.

They accept both US dollars as well as Cayman dollars, but expect to receive change in Cayman currency.

I had a Rum Point Sunset at Rum Point Club, and Mr. SBC had a Mudslide. Or two.

We found a somewhat secluded area and plopped on our loungers to rest in the sun and enjoy the scenery.

There were quite a few people enjoying the water, and I noticed a couple of snorkelers near the shore as well. The long dock encouraged visiting boats to tie up quite some distance from the swimmers and snorkelers, so it looked very safe.

I went to check out the gift shop, and I was pleasantly surprised! The shop was well-merchandised and stocked with higher-quality souvenirs than many of the shops we’ve visited at other Caribbean resorts. The prices were pretty high, though.

All too soon we heard the fifteen-minute warning horn from our boat, and we knew it was time to pack up our things and return. Those two hours went by so quickly, relaxing under the palm trees!

What did we think about our day on Grand Cayman?

  • The price for the tour was fairly reasonable. It was six hours long and included lunch, transportation, lots of time on the boat, and access to the beach club.
  • We loved our guide, Captain Chris. He and his first mate were friendly and engaging. They obviously love their jobs!
  • I’m not sure whether so much human interaction is good for the wild stingrays. They’re obviously used to people, and have come to rely on them for food. However, too many boats can anchor near the sandbar at the same time.
  • I really enjoyed snorkeling at the reef. We saw so many beautiful fish! We had about 45 minutes here which was perfect.
  • Rum Point Club was lovely and relaxing. With just one day on the island, we didn’t have enough time to unwind and really enjoy it. I would definitely go back and spend an entire day there.

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Have you been to Stingray City on Grand Cayman? What did you think about the experience? Let me know in the comments below!

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Carrie Ann Karstunen

Laura Pedlar

Friday 5th of June 2020

I really enjoyed my visit to Stingray City in Grand Cayman! I was a little nervous to start with and one bit my finger when I was feeding it squid but I would highly recommend this shore excursion. We opted to book it independently which did work out cheaper than with the cruise but we ended up with a cruise group for the trip.

Carrie Ann

Friday 5th of June 2020

Laura, I was a little nervous at first, too! But the rays were so gentle and friendly. Booking independently is always a great way to save money, and you can often find the exact tours that the cruise line offers. Thanks for stopping by!

Nancy Hann

Wednesday 4th of March 2020

Thanks for sharing your great day Carrie Ann! My husband and I did the StingRay excursion years ago and loved it too. I can definitely see why the Caymans are a favorite spot for fun in the sun.

Carrie Ann

Thursday 5th of March 2020

Aren't the stingrays so sweet? I was a bit nervous at first, but they're so friendly and didn't mind us humans at all :D


Thursday 23rd of January 2020

What a fantastic place to visit - we have hand fed stingrays in the wild and swum with Manta Rays in Australia. They are beautiful creatures and wonderful to see in their own environment.

Carrie Ann

Thursday 23rd of January 2020

Aren't they so beautiful? I was a little nervous at first, but they're so sweet and friendly. I bet swimming with Manta Rays was incredible as well!


Saturday 21st of September 2019

We are going in October and staying steps away from Rum Point! I just booked our tickets to Stingray City. So excited!

Carrie Ann

Wednesday 2nd of October 2019

That's so exciting! I hope you have a fantastic trip :D

Madhurima Maiti

Monday 29th of April 2019

Oh wow! This must have been such a lovely experience! I am not fond of sea but I absolutely loved seeing this place. Thanks to your experience and photos. Would love to visit here some day.

Carrie Ann

Tuesday 30th of April 2019

I hope you get to visit! Grand Cayman is so beautiful, and we're hoping to return one day soon.